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Materials Sciences and Applications, 2011, 2, 1367-1374                                                                   ...
1368            A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight              ...
A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight            1369              ...
1370            A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight              ...
A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight         1371                 ...
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A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight               1373           ...
1374             A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight             ...
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Steel versus uhmwpe fiber in sternum closure


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This scientific article addresses the differences of using metal versus UHMWPE fiber for sternum closure applications.

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Steel versus uhmwpe fiber in sternum closure

  1. 1. Materials Sciences and Applications, 2011, 2, 1367-1374 1367doi:10.4236/msa.2011.210185 Published Online October 2011 ( Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviourof Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular WeightPoly Ethylene Cables for Sternum ClosureRoelof Marissen1,2, Mischa Nelis2, Mildred Janssens2, Michelle D. M. E. Meeks3, Jos G. Maessen31 Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands; 2DSM Dyneema, Urmond, The Nether-lands; 3University Hospital Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands.Email:; roelof.marissen@dsm.comReceived June 8th, 2011; revised June 30th, 2011; accepted July 8th, 2011.ABSTRACTSternum closure after open heart surgery is typically done with steel wires. Final approximation of sternal parts andconnection is achieved by twisting the ends of the wire and bending the twisted assembly towards the sternum in orderto minimize outward protrusion. Though this routine procedure is highly effective, some failures do occur, e.g. due towire fracture. Fatigue fracture of the wires, e.g. due to coughing implies a failure risk. An alternative development is tomake cables from gel spun Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene (UHMWPE) fibres, such fibres are extremelystrong, yet flexible, and if made as a very pure grade, they are highly bio compatible. The optimal connection techniquewill be different from that of steel. Connection will rather be with knotting than twisting. A new sternum closure andfixation technique has been developed for the sternum. Additionally, a testing technique was developed, for a connec-tion of simulated sternum parts, using different materials according to their respective optimal connection method andsubsequently testing the mechanical properties of the connection. Substantial differences were observed. The mechani-cal behaviour of twisted steel wire connection showed more scatter than the knotted UHMWPE cables and some initialslack was sometimes present in the twisted cables. The maximum attainable force in the steel wires was determined by“untwisting” due to the external load. The maximum force in the UHMWPE cables was determined by the knot strength,either slipping for small knots, or breaking of the cables at the knots for slip-improved knots. The maximum force on theknotted UHMWPE cables was substantially larger than the maximum force on the twisted steel wires. Fatigue testswere performed on both the steel solution and the UHMWPE cables solution. The performance was about similar, al-though the simulated sternum opening was smaller for the UHMWPE cables at higher load levels. Summarizing, theUHMWPE cables show two advantages namely higher maximum load and more reproducible mechanical behaviourdue to less scatter in the mechanical behaviour. On the other hand, the connection by knotting UHMWPE cables issomewhat more elaborate than the simple twisting connection of steel wires.Keywords: Heart Surgery, Load, Displacement, Fracture, Deformation, Twisting, Knotting, Slip, Fatigue1. Introduction tice is adequate in most cases. However, fracture of the wires does occur [1-2], sometimes in the surgery room,Open heart surgery may be inevitable if other treatments sometimes later, e.g. due to fatigue loads if patients areof heart disease, like angioplasty, fail. Open heart surgery frequently coughing. Coughing may cause fatigue frac-requires longitudinal splitting of the sternum by median ture of the steel wires. Metals are especially sensitive tosternotomy, thus making the heart accessible for surgical fatigue after plastic deformation, see e.g. [3]. This is re-treatment. The sternum has to be closed after the treat- lated to unfavorable residual stresses after plastic defor-ment. This is done by feeding steel wires, provided with mation and to the large amounts of dislocations in thea needle between the ribs, around both sternum halves. metal crystals. The twisting of the ends implies consid-The needle and possible excess length is cut off and the erable plastic deformation. Figure 1 illustrates this prob-ends are connected by twisting them together. This prac- lem. It shows two Scanning Electron Micrographs of anCopyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  2. 2. 1368 A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum Closure (a) (b)Figure 1. SEM micrograph of a broken sternum closure wire, retrieved from a patient about five month after surgery. (a)Overview; (b) detail of the non broken part showing micro broken wire that was removed from the patient, as an implant material. Section 2 describes the investi-about five month after surgery. The fracture surface oc- gated materials and the experiments and results. The re-curs at the first winding of the twisted area, because the sults are discussed in Section 3, and some conclusionsloads are highest at that location and full damage due to are also presented in Section 3.the plastic deformation during twisting is present. The 2. Materials and Experimentsadjacent counterpart shows surface cracks, indicating thatalso this part of material has been loaded close to its limit. Commercial steel wires are chosen as a representative ofThe dark “netlike pattern” in Figure 1(a) is due to re- a state of the art sternum closure technique. Ethicon sur-maining organic material that was still resident, even gical steel M649C monofilaments were chosen. Theafter ultrasonic cleaning. The remaining organic material measured thickness was about 1 mm. Cables made ofon the fracture surface is consistent to in vivo fracture. Dyneema Purity® (registered trademark of Royal DSM Moreover, the flexural stiffness and hardness of the N.V.), further denoted as UHMWPE cables, were chosensteel wire will cause inhomogeneous load distribution on as a representative of the polymer solution. Thesethe sternum, after closing and tightening. Locations with UHMWPE cables are by far the strongest biocompatiblehigh pressure on the sternum bone may cause bone cut- polymer implant material that is available. The cablesting and local bone degeneration. A possible solution for were braided from 16 yarns of 165 dtex (linear density isthese problems may be to close the sternum with polymer 16.5 grams per km) Dyneema Purity®UG material. Fig-cables. Such cables may be less sensitive to fatigue and ure 2 is a picture of both materials. The dimensions arethey are extremely flexible, thus a very homogeneous comparable. The diameters are about 1 mm.load distribution on the sternum may be expected. Con- Testing of both options is done by laying them aroundsidering the occurring loads, it is clear that the tensile a pair of aluminium blocks that can slide away from eachstrength of the polymer cable must about equalize the other. The blocks can be loaded in tension by a pin in astrength of the steel wire. Cables made from gel-spun hole that is present in each block. Figure 3 shows pairsUHMWPE do indeed offer that high tensile strength. of blocks surrounded by a steel wire and an UHMWPEMoreover, gel-spun UHMWPE fibers are very resistant cable. This pair of blocks simulates the split sternum into fatigue. Dyneema Purity® was chosen for the present such a way that it is possible to measure the response toinvestigation. The material has already been implanted mechanical loading of the wires and cables and their con-successfully in humans [4] and animals [5]. Dyneema nection technique.Purity® has quickly become the “gold standard” for ro- Quasi-static tensile tests are performed by mountingtator cuff repair in human shoulders. More information the blocks in a Zwick/Roell 1474 tensile testing machineabout the gel-spun Dyneema® fibres is found in other and subjecting them to a separation displacement. Thepublications [6,7]. Dyneema Purity® is a specially pro- displacement rate was 10 mm/minute. Forces and dis-duced grade with extreme purity, thus making it suitable placements are measured during the tests.Copyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  3. 3. A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight 1369 Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum Closure done by knotting. The knots were tensioned with a pre- determined force that was also provided by the tensile testing machine. Two knotting procedures were investi- gated. 1) A knot based on a racking hitch, allowing easy ten- sioning. The knot is found in [8,9], The two cable ends are passed through the racking hitch and closed with a half-hitch and tightened with 360N, followed by twoFigure 2. Photo of a steel wire and a cable made with Dy- square knot and tightening again with 400N. This willneema Purity® for sternum closure. further be denoted as “stabilized racking hitch” 2) Surgeons knot tightened with 360N, additionally secured with two square knots tightening again with 400N. The surgical knot was also made on a double wire, in order to obtain a comparable situation. The knots that showed the best behaviour were ado- pted for further testing under fatigue loads. Figures 4 and 5 illustrate both knots. Fatigue testing is done at two load levels. The pair of blocks is uploaded to 350N and subsequently unloaded toFigure 3. Pairs of blocks; left, a pair of blocks in open con- 35N and further cycled between 35N and 350N for lowdition; middle fixated with steel wire; right fixated with a load level cyclic fatigue tests. Additional high load levelcable made with Dyneema Purity®. cyclic fatigue tests were performed between 45N and 450N. Again the load and displacement was continuously The connection of the steel wires was made by one recorded. The fatigue tests are performed in a Zwick/Roellexperienced surgeon, using the state of the art twisting Z010 tensile testing machine. The maximum displacementprocedure. The connection of the UHMWPE cables was rate in the fatigue tests was 25 mm/minute. Figure 4. Schematic illustration of the “stabilized racking hitch” knot with security knots. Figure 5. Schematic illustration of surgeons knot with two square knots.Copyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  4. 4. 1370 A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum Closure Figure 6 shows a load displacement diagram of both initial region. This is due to some knot slipping.knots in a quasi static tensile test. It indicates that the 3) The nominal behavior at the onset of loading isstabilized racking hitch provides the best connection. similar for steel and UHMWPE. However, the steel wireMoreover, this knot is more practical to make and it is solution shows a more variable load-displacement be-somewhat smaller. Therefore, this is the knot that is cho- havior. About half of the steel wire specimens exhibit asen for further investigations. kind of slack. Figure 7 compares the load displacement diagram of 4) Some sternum opening under load occurs for boththe metal wire and the stabilized racking hitch in a quasi solutions. The opening of the UHMWPE specimensstatic tensile test. Some interesting differences can be shows less scatter, especially at onset of loading, and isobserved: on average less than the opening of the steel wire speci- 1) The maximum load level reached with the mens.UHMWPE solution is larger than that reached with steel Figure 7 gives a good impression of the mechanicalwire. behavior of both sternum closure methods. However, it is 2) The maximum load of the steel wire specimens is not yet complete. Quasi-static loading in vivo is onlyrelated to “plastic unwinding” of the wires. The unwind- partly relevant. Breathing and coughing represent cyclicing could be observed during the test. The upper load loadings that may cause some sternum opening or frac-region of the UHMWPE solution is less steep than the ture. Therefore, some tests were performed under cyclic loading. Two maximum load levels were chosen, 350N and 450N. The minimum load level during cycling was one tenth of the maximum load, so the so called load ratio was 0.1. The results showed some scatter, so two typical load displacement diagrams are presented per material and load level. The results are presented in the Figures 8-11. The Figures 8 and 9 show typical results of loading at 350N. Every diagram shows the load dis- placement excursions for the first 50 cycles, than a set of cycles at cycle numbers (N) of about 1000 and finally a set of cycles at N = 5000. The other cycles are not pre- sented, in order to keep the figures readable. Figure 10 shows two tests on the steel wire connection at a maxi- mum force of 450N. Figure 11 shows one (median) of three tests on UHMWPE cables. The scale of Figures 10Figure 6. Comparison of the simulated sternum force dis- and 11 is the same as in Figures 8 and 9. It can be ob-placement behavior for the two connections with cablesmade with Dyneema Purity®. served by comparing Figures 10 and 11 to 8 and 9, that the displacements are considerably larger at 450N than at 350N. Moreover, the displacements at 450N tend to be smaller for the UHMWPE cables than for the steel cables. Figure 11 shows only one of three experiments in order to keep the figure clear. Table 1 presents the data of all cyclic tests. It can be observed that the “Sternum opening” in- creases during cycling. This occurs for both materials. However, the increase becomes smaller at high cycle numbers, so the behavior can be called stable. The in- crease of the opening during cycling at maximum load of 350N is on average similar for the steel wires and for the UHMWPE cables. Steel shows somewhat lower opening at the maximum level. UHMWPE shows lower openingFigure 7. Comparison of the simulated sternum force dis- at the minimum load level. The displacements at theplacement behavior for the steel wire connection and the con- 450N loading were lower for the UHMWPE cables in allnection with the cable made with Dyneema Purity® with the cases. Apparently, the UHMWPE cables have more sta-stabilized racking hitch. bility at high cyclic load level.Copyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  5. 5. A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight 1371 Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum ClosureFigure 8. Two measurements of the simulated sternum opening under cyclic loading of a steel wire connection, at a maximumload of 350N.Figure 9. Two measurements of the simulated sternum opening under cyclic loading of an UHMWPE stabilized racking hitchconnection, at a maximum load of 350N.Figure 10. Two measurements of the simulated sternum Figure 11. A single (median) measurement of the simulatedopening under cyclic loading of a steel wire connection, at a sternum opening under cyclic loading of a stabilized rack-maximum load of 450N. ing hitch connection, at a maximum load of 450N.Copyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  6. 6. 1372 A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum Closure3. Discussion and Conclusions slack may not cause dramatic effects on a real sternum, due to its “softness”. However, it will be related to aThe comparison between steel wires and UHMWPE ca- somewhat decreased average stability. The loading onbles in a simulated sternum closure test showed sometypical new results. Sternum closure techniques have the different wire connections of the sternum will be dif-been investigated earlier on real human cadaveric ster- ferent due to different slack. On the other hand, thenum samples, e.g. by Losanoff et al. [10]. Of course such UHMWPE cables did not show any slack. All UHMWPEtests on a real sternum yield the most relevant informa- cable connections behaved very similar, especially in thetion regarding the behavior of the total system (sternum first part of the load-displacement diagram. The experi-plus connection technique). However, the real sternum mental scatter at higher load and displacement levels aremay be subjected to local indentation due to wire or ca- about similar for both materials. However, the maximumble forces. Thus it reacts “soft” and this “softness” may load that can be reached with the UHMWPE cable con-compensate for small displacement effects in the connec- nections is considerably higher. This implies a more failtion device. The present hard metal blocks do not show safe connection. Assume that a sternum is closed withsuch compensation effects and the isolated behavior of five steel wires, fracture of one wire due to whateverthe connection can be established more accurately. This cause will increase the average load on the other wiresset up sacrifices the realistic simulation of a complete with 20%. Of course this additional load will not bein-vivo system on behalf of more precise observation of equally distributed, wires adjacent to the broken onesstructural behavior in detail. Indeed it is observed that the would even experience more than 20% load increase.twisted steel wire connections sometimes show some This might cause subsequent failure of other wires.“slack”. This slack is different per connection, in spite of Moreover, possible initial slack of some steel wiresthe fact that it can hardly be observed on the specimen would decrease uniform loading and thus increase theand in spite of the fact that they are all made by one problem to some extent. The UHMWPE cable connec-trained surgeon in the same way at the same time. The tions show about the double ultimate strength as com- Table 1. Simulated sternum opening displacements in various cyclic tests. Minimum Displ. Maximum Displ. Minimum Displ. Maximum Displ. Minimum Displ. Maximum Displ. Material-Load At N = 50 [mm] At N = 50 [mm] At N = 1000 [mm] At N = 1000 [mm] At N = 5000 [mm] At N = 5000 [mm] Steel-350N 0.74 0.86 0.79 0.87 0.79 0.87 ,, 0.89 1.05 1.01 1.10 1.01 1.10 Average ST-350 0.87 0.96 0.90 0.99 0.90 0.99 Steel-450N 1.50 1.62 1.54 1.65 1.55 1.65 ,, 2.80 3.03 2.93 3.01 2.94 3.03 Average ST-450 2.15 2.32 2.24 2.33 2.25 2.38 UHMWPE-350N 0.29 0.85 0.53 1.00 0.64 1.08 ,, 0.28 0.83 0.58 1.06 0.71 1.16 ,, 0.70 1.19 0.97 1.40 1.08 1.48 Average PE-350 0.42 0.96 0.69 1.15 0.81 1.24 UHMWPE-450N 0.72 1.35 0.94 1.49 1.05 1.56 ,, 1.00 1.64 1.28 1.84 1.41 1.93 ,, 1.19 1.84 1.49 2.06 1.62 2.14 Average PE-450 0.97 1.61 1.24 1.80 1.36 1.88Copyright © 2011 SciRes. MSA
  7. 7. A Comparison between the Mechanical Behaviour of Steel Wires and Ultra High Molecular Weight 1373 Poly Ethylene Cables for Sternum Closurepared to the steel wires and thus will always resist addi- ticity occurs, may result in strain softening. That meanstional loads. that the elastic yield stress decreases during cyclic de- The mechanisms that limit further loading are different formation. In this case, this will be accompanied by in-for both systems. The twisted steel wires show plastic creasing displacement. The knots in the UHMWPE ca-un-twisting at maximum load. A significant further load bles comprise a complex internal stress system with highincrease does not occur if the unwinding takes place. A normal stresses due to knot tightening and friction shearkind of plastic plateau is observed. Indeed, such a be- stresses that provide the holding power of the knot. Cy-havior is to be expected, because new twists are exposed clic loading will influence the normal stresses in the knotto the opening load if previous twists are untwisted. The and consequently also influences the related frictionnew twists show similar mechanical behavior as the pre- stresses. The cyclic variation of the friction stresses willvious twists, so similar loads will occur. Casha et al. [11] be related to some microscopic displacement under fric-report that steel wires for sternum closure untwist at 20 tion in the knot. The total knot slip displacement will ofkg-force. This is equivalent to 200N. The present results course be in the direction of the average load. Fortu-on the blocks yield about 400N. This is consistent to the nately, also this complex mechanical system in the knotvalue of 200N from [11], because the present load is car- tends to be stable. The further displacements decreaseried about equally by the two locations around the blocks, strongly with increasing cycle the double load is to be expected. It should however Summarizing, it can be stated that UHMWPE cablesbe noted that in several cases some opening of the blocks are an attractive alternative for steel wires in sternumwith steel wires occurred at this load. Moreover, due to closure. The present investigation demonstrated that theyscatter some specimens never reached this load com- provide a strong connection of the sternum parts. Theypletely. are flexible and highly biocompatible and it may be ex- The UHMWPE cable connections are limited by knot pected that they will hardly cause local pressure on theslipping. Of course the nose cannot slip, but, the half sternum bone. Handling in the surgery room is simplehitch and square knots can slip. Indeed, knots in and they can be made from commercially providedUHMWPE cables do slip. This helps tensioning and ex- Dyneema Purity®. The present investigation shows thatplains the good initial behavior, but it also allows some the mechanical behaviour is attractive as compared tosternum opening at high loads. Typically knots in state of the art steel wire methods. The initial load dis-UHMWPE cables tend to slip and tighten further under placement behaviour is similar to that of steel wires, butincreasing loads, thus the increasing opening under in- the statistical scatter is lower. The behaviour is morecreasing load can be understood. Of course, both plastic reproducible. The critical load level is much higher thanuntwisting and knot slipping are non reversible processes. for steel wires, so the UHMWPE cables connections areIndeed, the cyclic loading curves in the Figures 8-11 in- more redundant than steel and will provide more safetydicate that some opening remains after (almost) unload- against fracture. The simulated sternum opening behavioring. under cyclic loading of the UHMWPE cables is similar Cyclic loading causes further opening of the simulated to that of steel. At high load levels it may even be better.sternum model. However, the amount of further openingoccurs merely at low cycle numbers. The difference in REFERENCESopening between 1000 cycles and 5000 cycles is very [1] C. C. Shih, C. M. Shih, Y. Y. Su and S. J. Lin, “Potentialsmall as compared to the opening that is present at 1000 Risk of Sternal Wires,” European Journal of Cardio-Tho-cycles. Moreover, most of the cyclic opening occurred racic Surgery, Vol. 25, No. 5, 2004, pp. 812-818.already at 50 cycles. Assume patients that cough force- [2] C. M. Shih, Y. Y. Su, S. J. Lin and C. C. Shih, “Failurefully on average 3 times a minute during one days (quite Analysis of Explanted Sternal Wires,” Biomaterials, Vol.much). The total number of cycles is almost 5000. 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